The best of Far North Queensland

From our time exploring Port Douglas and surrounds here are the top things I would recommend are worth your time and money investment.

The Great Barrier Reef

There’s no denying that this was probably both John and I’s favourite experience. Neither of us are big on swimming with fish so it took us right out of our comfort zone but we knew we had to do it.

Because we weren’t so keen on seeing the really big fish we decided on a half day cruise that took us to the Low Isles. This meant instead of jumping off a boat into deep water we could enjoy the reef by wading out from the beach.

I was a little skeptical that we may not see as much being so close to shore but I needn’t have worried at all. As soon as we swam out we saw abundant, colourful coral and fish, including some pretty huge ones. We were also treated to several turtle sightings, which is what i had hoped most to see, small reef sharks (eep, this made me a bit nervous but I am so glad we saw them), and even a cute little starfish lying on the sand.

We were definitely not bored for the few hours we were on Low Isles, but at the same time were more than ready to hop back on board the boat for a muffin and some tea to warm up when time was up.

Even though we only saw a little part of it, I was completely blown away by the beauty of the Great Barrier Reef. I sure hope we can look after it for generations to come.

Sea turtles often mistake plastic bags for food. When a sea turtle eats several of these they are no longer able to swim down to the bottom of the ocean and camouflage. Sadly, the bags cause them to float and subsequently they are easy prey. I’m glad to see society is becoming more aware about the dangers of plastic on our marine animals.

The Daintree and Cassowary Falls

In a spontaneous decision while away we joined a tour to explore the Daintree. With just us and another couple on board it was practically a private tour and so much fun.

The day started with a crocodile cruise, where, despite the cloudy conditions, we did in fact see a couple of crocs on the go. Then it was on to a beautiful place in the heart of the forest for some morning tea – scones with jam and cream, yum!

From there we headed to a private property to take in Cassowary Falls, all the while the drive took us through the absolutely gorgeous scenery of the Daintree Rainforest. You could feel the temperature in the rainforest was substantially cooler than Port Douglas as there are so many huge trees fighting for the sunlight and creating a gorgeous canopy above.

Once we arrived at the farm we hoped into an open back jeep and went on a four-wheel drive adventure to the falls, clinging on for dear life but laughing lots. The waterfall was picture perfect and so tranquil. I can’t imagine having something like that on my land. Our guide had brought some food for the fish in the deep water. I had changed into my bathers because I was definitely keen to swim where there was a waterfall, however I quickly changed my mind once I felt the temperature of the water and discovered just how many creatures lived in there!

The fish food drew swarms of fresh water fish, including a catfish, an eel and several fresh water turtles (much less cute than the sea turtles but cool nonetheless). John and I even managed to pat the eel! Definitely not something we thought we would do. For the sake of some cool video footage I even mustered up the courage to stand in the middle of all the fish while our guide threw in some food that caused them to thrash about my legs. I did not enjoy that one bit!

Cassowary Falls and all its wildlife were definitely a highlight. I loved seeing so much nature.

Mossman Gorge

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The day we left for the airport we decided to check out Mossman Gorge at last, and I am so glad we did. Just 10 minutes drive north of Port Douglas, this beautiful part of the Daintree has so much to offer.

There are several walking tracks with the longest being a loop of couple of kilometres. I wanted to head out on that one to see as much of the rainforest as we could. So, after finishing the smaller routes we took the long one. It begins with a suspension bridge over the gorge and then continues up for a little way before the official track starts. Unfortunately, in my pregnant state I wasn’t quite able to tackle the whole loop and we had to do an out and back route but it was a lovely walk. We saw a few bush turkeys out there, as well as some geckos, plus the rainforest itself is exceptionally pretty.

After all the walking we headed back to a part of the gorge that offers the perfect place to swim, with a little beach-like entrance and a place clear of boulders. The day we were there was a ‘no swimming’ day but many people were still. I was keen as the water was crystal clear and it is such a beautiful spot. As long as you stay out of the currents and rough waters you should be fine. However, since the water comes down from the mountains underground before being exposed to the sun in Mossman Gorge, it is incredibly freezing water. A quick in and out dip was all that was needed to feel refreshed.

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Kuranda Skyrail

On the drive back to Cairns is the Kuranda Skyrail and Railway, a cable car and old train experience. We chose to do both to get to and from the village of Kuranda at the top.

We went up on the skyrail, which takes about an hour and half because you can get off at a couple of stops along the way to explore the rainforest. There are some beautiful views from above the treetops in the cable car. Along the way you also see the impressive Baron Falls, both from the cable car and a viewing platform. During the train ride back down towards Cairns the falls are also a stop off.

Once we reached Kuranda we had some lunch and did the butterfly sanctuary. I really enjoyed the butterfly sanctuary. There were so many colourful variants and some absolutely huge butterflies. They would also land on you if you were wearing white or bright colours.

We took the railway back down – an hour and 45 minute journey through lush forest, tunnels and past waterfalls. It took us almost a full day to do both the skyrail, railway and the Kuranda Village.

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Docking at Port Douglas

Port Douglas, Queensland.

Never heard of it? Or heard of it but don’t really know what the deal is? Well you’re not alone, before I spent a week there this winter I hadn’t much of an idea what the place was about either.

Before getting married early last year, I won a Facebook competition (way too exciting because I never win anything!) and the prize was a fairly decent $1000 travel voucher. Normally I wouldn’t find this so hard to spend, but having just gotten back from a huge European honeymoon (I will blog about the other locations at some point I swear) I didn’t particularly feel in the mood to book another holiday. It wasn’t until a few days before the voucher expired that I settled on booking a week in Port Douglas in tropical north Queensland.

There were a couple of reasons for the location that I knew very little about. The first was I wanted a holiday so different from our honeymoon; this included just one location, a warm climate and somewhere that was conducive to relaxing and wasn’t going to make us feel like rushing about and doing a million things. The second reason, I will admit, was Instagram. No, I don’t mean I had seen some great ‘grammable opportunities and so I wanted to replicate that — although I would soon discover just how picture perfect this place was. I actually saw a post by Rebecca Judd of her family holiday in Port Douglas and it just looked so relaxing that I thought it would be the way to go.

Turns out after finding out in March/April that we were pregnant, a relaxing holiday (now babymoon!) was just what was needed.

We spent 7 nights at Peppers Beach Club in a spa suite, which gave us our own little spa bath on the balcony. It was bliss. The lagoon pool is gorgeous, although it was pretty freezing to swim in. I had booked us in for the buffet breakfast everyday too so we didn’t have to worry about getting out and about to eat. It wasn’t anything too impressive but more than enough options for the two of us who stuck with muesli and yoghurt every morning.

The hotel is in a great location. Port Douglas is a small town but some of the hotels sit a fair way from the main shopping/dining precinct. Every day we walked to the main street to grab a meal or just take a stroll. From Peppers it’s also a very short walk to the stunning Four Mile Beach with views of the dramatic mountain ranges. If you walk straight through town from Four Mile Beach for about a kilometre you’ll hit another beach on the west coast, meaning you can both see the sunset rise and set over the ocean in Port Douglas.

Port Douglas was the ideal base from which to explore tropical north Queensland, we headed out on day trips to Mossman Gorge, Kuranda and the Great Barrier Reef, all of which I hope to detail here soon.

Paris is always a good idea

Paris, France

February 8, 2017

France. My European home. Now I get to share it with my love.

After spending two months on exchange in Dijon at the age of 16, returning to France on subsequent trips felt very much like returning to somewhere so familiar. I understood the customs, I knew how to navigate and I could communicate with the people. I couldn’t wait to share this place I’d spent so much time in and grown to love so much with my husband on our honeymoon.

Paris greeted us with a smoke smog that was to linger for most of our stay, which was a shame but even that couldn’t kill the beauty of this city – though I don’t think it helped John’s cold that he’d developed before the wedding.

We were staying in our first AirBnb – a little apartment in Montmartre. The stairs were a bit of a killer but the location was fantastic – on a surprisingly quiet street near the Moulin Rouge (ooh la la!).

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The weather was a shock to the system even though I’ve done several European winters. You really have to spend your time flitting in and out of shops and cafes to stay warm.

I had a few places I wanted to hit up while we were here – either for a revisit or to catch something I had missed on previous visits – but of course when you’re a part of someone’s first trip to Paris there are a few obligatory places you have to go.

So over the next few days we made our way to the Champs-Elysées and its Arc de Triomphe, the Eiffel Tower, the Sacre Coeur, the Louvre and the Notre Dame.

 

The highlight of these for me was the Notre Dame. I’ve been inside it before but never climbed it and the view was gorgeous. The main reason I loved it though was because as soon as we got there it started snowing a tiny bit. Snow wasn’t even forecast for our time in Paris and I practically squealed with delight when it began. By the time we reached the top of the cathedral more snow had come in and it was truly magical. It was also John’s first time seeing falling snow.

 

To warm up we found tea and hot gaufres (waffles) at a nearby cafe while the snow kept falling outside. Honestly, this was the stuff of my dreams being in snowy Paris with my husband!

L’Arc de Triomphe was also well worth the admission. There’s not quite as many stairs to climb here but the 360 degree view is truly spectacular, as you watch cars zoom dangerously around the ginormous roundabout and check out the sights down the twelve main streets that lead from it. On a clear day I’m sure you could see a long way off, but on our visit we had to embrace the smog adding to the atmosphere of our photos.

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There are a couple of places I just love in Paris and I was excited to see them again and show these to John. The first was Shakespeare and Co. I spent ages in here on my last visit. Much to my delight John fell just as in love with it as I did and we had a great time picking out a couple of books to take home, playing on the typewriters, exploring little nooks and he even played some tunes on the piano (which did actually ask people to play on it). It’s a booklover’s dream place to stay all cosy on a freezing winter day.

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The famous Parisian macaron house of Ladurée was also on my hit up list. They may be pricey but nothing compares to the macarons here. Last time, I just purchased a salted caramel macaron at their airport store. This time we found ourselves in a queue at their restaurant on the Champs-Elysees. This place was seriously beautiful. There seemed to be a million different rooms in the building where diners were taken to tables. The carpet, walls, ceiling, chandeliers and tables and chairs were all like dining in Versailles itself.

We ordered a selection of macarons to sample and a chocolate frappé each. Hands down, best iced chocolate drink I’ve ever had, but way too small to satisfy.

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The rest of our time in Paris was spent just exploring the streets – my favourite way to get to know any city – and enjoying lots of the local cuisine (namely sweets but we did throw in some French onion soup for good measure).

Unconsciously Absorbing the Emirates

Dubai, U.A.E

February 7, 2017.

 

 

The idea behind a stop in Dubai was to give us a more chilled journey from Australia to Europe post the wedding madness. However, as good as it was to crash on a horizontal bed for one night I’m still unsure if a few hours layover was worth it, especially as we were setting the alarm for another extremely early morning flight!

If nothing else it was the opportunity I had wanted to set foot outside of the airport this time and experience a culture so different from our own.

Well, I didn’t have to leave the airport to get my first taste of that. What was to become quite the hassle during our European travels began on day one as my 20kg suitcase slid round the conveyor belt of baggage collection with a very obvious defect. Yes Emirates, thanks for the missing wheel from the get go.

I’m not the sort of person to let these things just slide so I marched right up to the baggage service desk to let them know about the damage. While waiting in line two men appeared alongside me also needing assistance. When the woman had finished with the man in front these men proceeded to move towards the counter first. I was overtired, over-traveled and not in the mood so I also edged forward making sure they were very aware I was there first. I got next to no acknowledgement, and if it wasn’t for the woman at the desk who had noticed me I would have easily been pushed aside. Even when she explained I was next they were not willing to concede.

It was an extremely unsettling feeling to be treated this way by other adults. This was not to be my only experience of this either. On our return home I also found myself pushed to the side at checkouts by other men and downright ignored. It was an eye opening experience to the local culture. At the time I was so tired, so sick of traveling that I found it too much and returned to John in tears. It really got me thinking about how crippling the restrictions placed on women in these parts of the world could feel. I’ve been so blessed to live in a country when in my eyes I’m treated as an equal to men and it’s not something I’ve ever had to think about.

All that being said, Dubai is a magnificent place. I have never seen anything like it. Driving through felt like being in a futuristic city with road bridges high above the traffic, looping over everywhere. After spending some time in our hotel, and doing our best to not give in to the desire to sleep, we set foot outside into pleasantly mild weather and a bustling city.

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We were staying in downtown Dubai with a view over a construction site, but handy proximity to the world’s largest shopping centre.

We didn’t much feel in the mood for shopping but we didn’t need to do that here. We were thoroughly entertained for ages with the 10 million litre aquarium and we didn’t even pay to enter the exhibit!

The shopping centre also has an indoor ice rink, countless levels of stores, a more cultural marketplace and an outdoor dining precinct where we watched a light, fountain show while enjoying our greasy Five Guys’ burgers.

We caught up with some of my family while over here too, which was a great opportunity.

After an all-too brief night’s sleep we were up bright an early for our next flight to Paris!

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Fair ladies at Fairbridge

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Our state is so beautiful. Whether it’s the bustling city, the rough and tumble of the red outback or the tranquility in the lush south I can’t help but find myself in awe of the beauty that surrounds us.

I spent the last stormy weekend on a retreat, with a bunch of beautiful women from my church, at the quaint Fairbridge Village near Pinjarra.

This was a wonderful time to get away and share connection with one another and hear and experience some powerful things God wanted to do over that weekend.

The first morning we woke to the great storm of 2016. The thundering of rain on the tin roof of the dorm while I was cocooned in my sleeping bag was the most cosy sensation.

Although the rain pelted down and the wind was fierce it didn’t dampen our moods in the slightest. And for those like me who love winter weather, made it all the more enjoyable.

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During a period of free time, my lively and lovable friend Jordi and I ventured out of Fairbridge, through debris on the road from the storm and into Pinjarra.

We had a quick squiz in an op shop and enjoyed a little walk around one of the town’s churches and then by the Murray River. It was a gorgeous place and we took some snaps that were quite insta-worthy (that is how you rate quality pictures theses days). Enjoy!

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Let’s put travel in perspective

Scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed – like any typical Friday (or Monday or Tuesday or any day for that matter) – I came across an article titled Why Not Quitting Your Job to Travel is a Waste of Your Life.

Wow!

Now I don’t know if your first thoughts upon reading that were at all like mine, but I was fairly taken aback.

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First, let me put it out in the open that yes, I am a full time worker who has evidently not quit their job to travel. But, anyone who knows me knows that I love travelling. In fact, I have done more than many people’s fair share of travelling for my age. I owned a passport before the age of 4, have spent extended periods of time abroad, flown on multiple solo trips from 16 to countries where I didn’t speak the language and I have loved and treasured those experiences.

I truly believe that travel is far more than a money-can-buy-experience and teaches us many things… BUT, and I want people to understand this, travel is not the be all and end all and there is absolutely nothing wrong with having not been anywhere, nor having little desire to venture beyond one’s own shores.

Back in my grandparent’s days very few people could afford the luxury of holiday adventures. The concept of backpacking through Europe in your 20s, family holidays to Disneyland, snow adventures in Japan or exotic South American treks are relatively recent and have gained momentum fast.

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People who have travelled little, or not at all, often receive a bizarre look as if they are from somewhere completely foreign (‘scuse the pun). There is nothing wrong with these people and I think we have a very valuable lesson we can learn from them – the importance of finding contentment wherever you find yourself and for however long you may be there.

When having seen as many places as possible on Earth as you can is highly regarded among our friends. It’s almost as if travel has become a bit of a competition, who’s been to the most remote place?  Who’s been to the most countries, airports included/excluded? Who’s climbed all 669 steps of the Eiffel tower? (For the record I have done that and never again!)

So, why do I have such a problem with the title of this article?

It’s simply this. The implication that those who have not travelled are wasting their life is quite frankly nonsense. Ask them what they’ve been doing with all the time they’ve had while you’ve been away and you’ll likely discover something pretty extraordinary. Maybe they’re creative and they’ve spent time writing a book or making music, maybe they’ve hung out with their friends and built fantastic relationships… or maybe they have followed ‘convention’ and ‘stereotypes’ *gasp* *scream* (the horror!) and got themselves a job. A job they’ve worked hard to get, a job they rock up to every day, some days joyfully others a little reluctantly but either way they’ve committed, they’ve pushed through the long days, the busy schedules, the mundane tasks, the irritable co-workers to bring home a wage for their family, or for their saving plan, or to work their way to their goal position.

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Quitting a job to roam our beautiful earth can take courage, but more often the real courage is overlooked, of the people who choose to stay and find contentment in their lot.

By no means do I mean to kill your dream of seeing wild elephants in Africa or make you feel selfish for your wonderful adventures. For those of us who have travel consider yourself blessed, treasure your memories and continue to plan your next trip if that excites you and you are able, but may we consider there is far more important things than how many places we can tick off our bucket list.

For the record I do hope to continue to post travel articles to all the exciting places I visit because it’s something I love to do!

 

 

Roaming Perth’s north (or north of Perth)

In my head I come up with really good plans.

I mean, I have great ideas, they’re executed exactly how they should be and everyone involved has a really good time. Unfortunately, that’s only in my head.

Last week I had decided to organise a bit of a weekend adventure for John and I, to do something we wouldn’t normally do. I thought a road trip to go swimming in Serpentine falls would be lots of fun, but then I heard a billion leeches live in those waters and I thought ‘hm, maybe we’ll revisit that idea the day I need to lose a bit of blood’.

Instead I researched Yanchep National Park and discovered they have caves you can explore, koalas, hiking tracks, tearooms and a bunch of different things that I thought could be really cool to discover.

So, I told John to pack his camera and some walking shoes and that we were headed on an adventure. We left mid-afternoon, which ideally would have been a bit earlier but I had other things i had to get done that morning.

By the time we arrived we were about half an hour too late for the final cave tour for the day, which was a real bummer. I thought that would be the highlight of the trek up that way and was now a bit annoyed that the ‘adventure’ I had talked up lacked much venturing.

Despite my poor planning skills (to check when the cave tours actually operated) there was still some cool things for us to see like the super cute snoozing koalas and plenty of kangaroos around the park.

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A lady at the visitors centre showed us a collapsed cave system on the map that we could still visit on our own, so we drove through the park roads to have a look.

We arrived at the entrance to a cave, which was closed for a private function, but we had a quick little peek through the corridor and saw it beautifully lit up with fairy lights – apparently people can host their wedding receptions inside one of the caves.

Nearby we found a track and eventually stumbled upon the collapsed cave system, which was huge walls of limestone surrounded by shrub and trees.

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On the way back to the car we heard lots of rustling in the bushes and out bounded a whole mob of kangaroos (sir Google tells me that’s what a group of roos are called).

It was pretty cool to be out in the bush just us and the wildlife. There are also huge numbers of black cockatoos at this park and they made quite the racket our whole visit.

20160305_162830_resizedAfter leaving the park we headed for Two Rocks. I’ve seen countless pictures of it but have never seen the famous King Neptune statue from the old Atlantis theme park in person, and since we were already so north we thought we might as well.

As luck would have it today it was closed, but of course it would be open tomorrow. Still, I didn’t even know it was something people could still visit but it did appear visitors can walk the stairs to the base of the statue at certain times.

I wasn’t exactly sure of how to get there either but once we came into Two Rocks there’s no missing it, it looms overhead quite impressively, if not a little creepily in John’s books.

20160305_165536_resized_1With the gate closed for another day we bid our farewell to King Neptune and headed back to Yanchep for a quick dip in the ocean, eagerly devoured fish and chips for tea and headed back to the ‘burbs.

It’s only half an hour from home but Yanchep felt almost like a country getaway for the day and offered some great hidden attractions for Perthians to explore.

That does raise a question though; is Yanchep in Perth’s north or north of Perth?